What happened with the ‘day one’ manifesto at Amazon

In the early days of Amazon, Jeff Bezos became famous for the philosophy he described to shareholders. He called it ‘Day one’. The idea took hold that if the people in an organisation acted like it was day 1 in the job, they were more likely to stay truly focussed on customers, and driven by results, not process. Amazon has 600,000 employees, is 24 years old, and is worth $1 trillion. Yet, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos believes every day is day one.

It took just two decades for Amazon to amass to a trillion-dollar company and clearly this is one of the focus points that drives the business and team behind it.

Here are some of the key points of the day 1 manifesto, taken from his letter to shareholders:

1. True Customer Obsession

‘You can be competitor focused, you can be product-focused, you can be technology focused, you can be a business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality. Why? There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach, but here’s the big one: customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. ‘

2. Resist Proxies

‘A common example is process as proxy. Good process serves you so you can serve customers. But if you’re not watchful, the process can become the thing. This can happen very easily in large organizations. The process becomes the proxy for the result you want. You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you’re doing the process right. Gulp. It’s not that rare to hear a junior leader defend a bad outcome with something like, “Well, we followed the process.” A more experienced leader will use it as an opportunity to investigate and improve the process. The process is not the thing. It’s always worth asking, do we own the process or does the process own us?’

3. Embrace External Trends

‘The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind. These big trends are not that hard to spot (they get talked and written about a lot), but they can be strangely hard for large organizations to embrace. We’re in the middle of an obvious one right now: machine learning and artificial intelligence.’

4. High-Velocity Decision Making

‘Day 2 companies make high-quality decisions, but they make high-quality decisions slowly. To keep the energy and dynamism of Day 1, you have to somehow make high-quality, high-velocity decisions. Easy for start-ups and very challenging for large organizations’.

As the new financial year kicks off, it’s a good time to think about the things you want to achieve in the year ahead…. And perhaps it’s time for a new philosophy to guide your organisation.